A workflow for improving estimates of microplastic contamination in marine waters: A case study from North-Western Australia


We present an analysis workflow tailored to quantifying microplastic contamination.
It outlines a consistent and sequential process for analysis and decision making.
We apply the workflow to marine tow samples from remote North-Western Australia.
Spectroscopy refutes plastic origin of >60% of particles first identified visually.
The workflow will provide more realistic and comparable contamination estimates.

Frederieke Kroon, Cherie Motti, Sam Talbot, Paula Sobral, Marji Puotinen, Environmental Pollution, Volume 238, July 2018, Pages 26–38

The article


Great Barrier Reef could be at risk from billions of pieces of plastic trash

Billions of bits of plastic waste are lodged in coral reefs across the Asia-Pacific, with potentially devastating results, a new study published in the journal Science has found.

The massive amount of plastic rubbish, located in 159 reefs from Thailand to Australia, is a huge concern for the marine environment and especially coral, according to the research.

That’s because the debris, like plastic bags, straws and bottles, stresses coral through “light deprivation, toxin release, and anoxia, giving pathogens a foothold for invasion”. (…) (abc.net.au, 30/01/2018)

The news

Australian draft plan aims to reduce marine debris

The Australian Government has issued a draft threat abatement plan with strategies to reduce marine debris. The plan specifically targets plastic litter.

It said marine debris, particularly plastic, is harmful to marine wildlife, with impacts caused through entanglement, ingestion and contamination.

The draft threat abatement plan for the impacts of marine debris on vertebrate marine species follows an Australian Senate inquiry on the threat of marine plastic pollution in Australia, which released a report, Toxic tide: the threat of marine plastic, in April 2016. The draft plan said marine debris impacts have been documented for seabirds, marine turtles, cetaceans, sharks and other Australian marine wildlife, including many species listed as threatened.

The Federal Government has sought public comment on the draft plan and will then release a final plan. (…) (plasticsnews.com, 10/04/2017)

The news

Citizen scientists to reveal WA beach pollution hot-spots

A Citizen Science project being launched by the Conservation Council of Western Australia is set to reveal marine plastic pollution hotspots by engaging volunteers in studying the distribution of minute plastic particles around the Southwest coastline, from Geraldton to Esperance.

In a first for WA, the project will involve volunteer ‘citizen scientists’ around the southwest who will take hundreds of samples of beach sand. The samples will be analysed by UWA researcher Dr Harriet Paterson to reveal the true extent of plastic contamination in the marine environment.

The sampling will identify tiny fragments of plastic called micro-plastics which affect marine life on a global scale. The particles look like food to marine life, but when ingested can kill animals and deliver toxic chemicals to the animals tissue. (…) (08/2016)

The project

Nacc news

POPs monitoring in Australia and New Zealand using plastic resin pellets, and International Pellet Watch as a tool for education and raising public awareness on plastic debris and POPs

Persistent organic pollutants (i.e. PCBs, DDTs, and HCHs) were analyzed along Australia and New Zealand North Island coastlines. PCB concentrations were high in urban areas (107–294 ng/g-pellet), with Sydney Harbour the most polluted. Hepta-chlorinated PCB was abundant, with ~ 30% in urban areas suggesting legacy pollution. DDT concentrations showed similar pattern except in rural agricultural sites, Taupo Bay and Ahipara, New Zealand (23 and 47 ng/g-pellet). p,p′-DDE predominance at these 2 sites suggested historical input; they also had high HCH concentrations (17 and 29 ng/g-pellet). The role of International Pellet Watch (IPW) in science communication was studied through feedbacks from IPW volunteers, case studies and examples. IPW data were categorized into understandable terms and tailored reports based on volunteers’ backgrounds complemented with pollution maps. The effectiveness of IPW science communication has led to its use in awareness and education activities focusing on both POPs and plastic debris issues.

Bee Geok Yeo, Hideshige Takada, Heidi Taylor, Maki Ito, Junki Hosoda, Mayumi Allinson, Sharnie Connell, Laura Greaves, John McGrath, Marine Pollution Bulletin, Volume 101, Issue 1, Pages 137–145, 15 December 2015

The article

Australia to update plastics marine threat plan

The Australian Government plans to release an updated plan next year to reduce plastic and marine debris that endangers seabirds, turtles and other marine life.

The revised plan will include input from a two-day workshop attended by a wide range of stakeholders, including representatives from the Melbourne-based Plastics and Chemicals Industries Association (PACIA) and the Sydney-based Australian Packaging Covenant (APC).

APC is a government-industry partnership that aims to reduce and reuse consumer packaging waste. (…)

The environment department spokesman said other workshop participants were researchers from CSIRO and universities with expertise in marine debris, eco-toxicology and wildlife ecology; non-government organizations involved in animal welfare, removing debris from beaches and lobbying for better outcomes for the marine environment; and representatives of Australian and state government agencies. (…) (plasticsnews.com, 29/10/2015)

The news

Australia takes the next step in the fight against ocean plastic pollution

Following on from the successful launch of the UK Good Scrub Guide, Fauna & Flora International (FFI) has now released an Australia specific version of the Guide, freely available for download.

Designed to help consumers make better decisions when buying beauty products including facial exfoliators and scrubs, the Good Scrub Guide highlights products that do not contain the harmful microbeads that are causing huge damage to our oceans and marine life. (phys.org, 23/10/14)